My Post-cPanel Toolkit

I spend less and less time in cPanel managing my online presence. I’ve moved bavatuesdays off cPanel 10+ years ago given my blog demanded a bit more juice than shared hosting could provide resource-wise. But once my go-to site went off cPanel, all the other projects I’d created with WordPress over the years were beginning to break due to major version updates and plugin/theme incompatibilities. It’s a trail of web tears if you let it go too far, so I’ve been converting as many of those sites as possible to static HTML over the years.

So I started thinking about what tools I regularly use while running my sites off cPanel. The first, and most important for me, is moving DNS management to something like Cloudflare. You can get a free account, and once you’ve pointed your domain’s nameservers at Cloudflare, you can manage DNS for the apex domain and all subdomains from their interface. Making that jump was the biggest for me, but I’ve never looked back in terms of returning to cPanel for DNS management. Also, if you still have subdomains on a cPanel account, you can use an A record in Cloudflare to point back to the cPanel server IP address.

After DNS, one of the features folks might need is email. But email on shared hosting has always been a bad choice, and that is increasingly becoming the case, so much so that Reclaim is strongly considering discontinuing shared e-mail support for all shared hosting accounts. Why is hosting email on shared hosting a bad? Well, because there are tons of spam houses out there that monitor and block servers that send out what they consider spam (which is not always the case), which leaves small hosting companies like us playing whack-a-mole on the regular just to keep basic email working. And being a small company we have none of the leverage of a Office 365 or Gmail, so it’s truly a losing battle to ensure email running well on shared hosting. In short: don’t run email on your shared hosting cPanel server. And if you are anathema to the free services like Gmail  and want to get serious out security and taking ownership then take a look at Proton Email.

With DNS and Email out of the way, the other feature I would miss is file management. This is tougher, given it will depend where you’re managing your actual site. Here’s a for example, on Reclaim Cloud each environment has a file manager built in where you can traverse directories, as well as upload, open, edit, and delete files, so there is a built-in solution there.* So ReclaimCloud has its own file manager.

File management in Reclaim Cloud

File management in Reclaim Cloud

But for ReclaimPress things are a bit different on this front, you can open, edit, and delete static files in your WordPress instance, but you would still need to practice some FTP kung-fu to upload new files to the server outside the aegis of the Media, plugin, and theme uploader built into WordPress.

More limited File Management in ReclaimPress (no file uploads)

What else? Domain redirects? Handled in Cloudflare. SSL certificates? Handled in Cloudflare. And I really think that’s about it for cPanel core functionality, although I am sure I am missing a few things, so let me know.

The one piece that might get you thrown off as you start to use other applications in other stacks is that transactional emails for things like password resets, welcome emails, etc. are not taken care of by the server automatically. This is why transactional email services like Mailgun become necessary for blog applications like Ghost.†

In fact, most of the other self-hosted tools I’m using these days like Ghost, Peertube, and Mastodon can often be run as one-click, stand alone containers on a service like ReclaimCloud. Which means, for me, managing the DNS through Cloudflare and the transactional emails through Mailgun. I’m finding my dependence on cPanel more around preservation than active publishing at this point, and I think a small, secure apache server on ReclaimCloud for archiving most of those sites would break that tether, but that might be fodder for another post.

Another big reason why I have been exploring these alternatives over the years is not only because more and more apps are created outside the PHP mold, but also because cPanel’s pricing model continues to become unwieldy, with 20% jump after 20% jump in license costs. A post-cPanel plan is as much about online survival as anything else.


*What’s more, if you’re running a WordPress site on ReclaimCloud, you can create subdomain-based directories in the ROOT folder where the WordPress site lives and host your archived, static sites by pointing the DNS for that directory subdomain in Cloudflare to the site’s IP. Alternatively, those directories can just be subdirectories off the main domain and work just as well.

†In fact, Ghost has built many of the basic email functions into the app, but the email newsletter features that have made it so popular still require a transactional email service like Mailgun.

This entry was posted in bavatuesdays, digital identity, indieedtech, Reclaim Cloud, ReclaimPress and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to My Post-cPanel Toolkit

  1. Pingback: The Blog Generation | bavatuesdays

  2. Alan Levine says:

    Sigh, the words “post cPanel plan” seems like a lot to do, but thanks for putting the writing on the wall. I am thinking about typical users for whom cpanel was likely a place they never ventured, that this is quite more, but I leave it to Team Reclaim for excellent docs and support.

    The free levels? I am not sure what counts as one of the 65 “rules” for cloudflare, but also, hey, thats what multiple email addresses are for.

    And speaking of that, is the free Mailgun enough for basic web site messages? I only have one old account I do as hosted email, most of my address are email forwarders, how would that work?

    For the files, I had past client projects where I never had sftp access and used for those the WordPress File Manager plugin.

    Time for this old dog to get his paws in the cloud, eh?

    • Reverend says:

      Updating here, I run the bava on the Cloudflare free plan, which you can can an overview of here:

      The addons for $5 a month I use are load balancing, so I can pretty much have a geo-located, failover, two server setup for $5 when it comes to Cloudflare, and the cost of the servers in Reclaim Cloud, that’s some pretty crazy hi-end shit right there for a loww-end price

  3. Reverend says:

    In terms of Cloudflare, you get a ton for free, and while that might change in the long-run, it has been true for about a decade. Free mailgun will get you everything you need and much more. Also, you can use Mailgun to forward email, as it turns out, so if you add your domain to mailgun, you can then forward to Gmail or some other service.

    Yeah, file management on ReclaimPress for you would be SFTP or the File Manager plugin, but frankly it would not be too big a jump, and I am here for you Dog!

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